Tulsa Union's defending Class 6A state championship football team is 12-0, No. 1 in the state of Oklahoma, No. 6 nationally and winners of 26 straight games on the gridiron.
The Redskins are getting ready to face Jenks, who they overwhelmed 37-0 back in the regular season in Saturday's 1:30 p.m. semifinal at Tulsa University's Skelly Stadium.
All seems great for a school with tremendous facilities that has spawned Union University T-shirts.
But considering two of its best players - linebacker Zach Snider (6-3, 220, 4.7) and defensive end Nathan Peterson (6-5, 255, 4.6) are banged up and the opponent is the school's biggest rival and there is cause for concern.
"Any time you get these two teams together, you can throw out the records and you better bring your best shot because that is what the other guy is going to do," Union head coach Bill Blankenship said. "It really is a matter of having to win every play and not taking one off."
Snider, who has already committed to sign with Arkansas, left Friday night's 41-21 quarterfinal round win over Lawton Eisenhower in the third quarter with what has been diagnosed as a grade 3 MCL tear.
He does not want to miss this week's game nor does Peterson, an Oklahoma State commit who is now planning on taking a visit to Arkansas and a guy who missed last week's game with an ankle injury.
"This is what you work so hard for, to play in these types of games and to win championships," said Snider, who spent the vast majority of the weekend getting treatment for his injury.
"I think it is up to me whether I play or not," Snider said. "If it is still hurting like it is now, than I am not going to play. I don't want to risk my college future. But if I get better and am running by Saturday, then I am going to play."
Snider suffered the injury in the third quarter of his team's 41-21 win over Lawton Eisenhower while chasing and making a tackle on star running back D.J. Wolfe.
"I was just running after D.J. Wolfe and the next thing I know one of my teammates gets blocked into me as we are all going down and I get hurt," Snider said. "It hurt, really hurt."
Snider has spent the weekend rehabbing.
"They've got this machine that is suppose to get it healthier quicker," Snider said. "In fact, it is suppose to improve by 500 percent or so. I have just been doing that all day every day since I got hurt. I've been putting ice on it and then using the machine. I hope to be ready."
Some 40,000 fans are expected to show up for contest, which has drawn at least that many to Skelly for the past four games.
"We are in a situation here where we are riding a phenomena that I don't think anybody else gets to be a part of," Coach Blankenship said of the rivalry's unreal attendance. "I don't understand, but I am glad to be a part of it. I feel like I caught the wave at the right time. It is a lot of fun."
The two schools are very close to each other in South Tulsa.
"Our families work together, they go to church together and see each other everywhere they go," Blakenship said. "And then on Friday night or Saturday afternoon when we play, you on one side, they are on the other and it is a grudge match all the way. And then you shake hands and see each other at church on Sunday. I think it would be different if it was a crosstown rivalry, but really it is just dividing up the community of South Tulsa. and getting with it."
Snider, a front-runner for the state of Oklahoma's Player of the Year honor has almost 120 tackles so far this season, and actually went to Jenks before his dad Gary Snider became part of the Union coaching staff six years ago when Blankenship was hired.
"It's always fun to play those guys," Snider said. "I use to go to Jenks (until the seventh grade) and it's always fun to play against my friends and talk a little good-natured trash. It's a great rivalry."
Blakenship was recruited by Oklahoma State and Kansas State, but Oklahoma thought his was too small to play linebacker for them and too slow to play strong safety.
"I think he is a steal," Coach Blakenship said. "Anybody who watches us play and him play and not be excited about that young man is crazy. Zach Snider is a ballplayer and can do whatever needs to be done. He's nasty, tough and physical and is a great competitor."
"I think Arkansas is going to end up looking real smart in this deal," Coach Blankenship added. "From the very beginning back in May when Coach Nutt said in my office, he made it clear that he was a guy they wanted. He said "he's a playmaker, an outstanding player and we want him to be a Razorback and be a star for us at linebacker. He would get my vote as the Player of the Year in the state of Oklahoma."
Peterson is very tight-lipped about his recruiting, but Blankenship did discuss it. Peterson , a mid-term graduate who has 11 sacks this season, has plans to visit Arkansas officially in December.
"I have talked to the OSU coaches and have told them that he is planning on taking a visit to Arkansas," Blakenship said. "To me that means you are not really committed. It will be interesting to see how that turns out."
"He's just a phenomenal player," Blankenship continued. "He's strong, fast, is a great pass rusher and also great against the run. He's just all you could ask for in a defensive end."
Snider is trying to flip his teammate from Oklahoma State to Arkansas.
"I just tell him that he would be better off at Arkansas," Snider said. "I tell Adam that, too."
That would be tight end-defensive end Adam Blankenship(6-4, 230, 4.7), the coach's son and a third Union player that is in the recruiting mix with Arkansas.
"Adam is a guy that plays with a lot of emotion and is one of those guys that coaches say plays with his motor running hard and fast all the time," Coach Blakenship said. "He just goes hard on ever play, is very strong, has good technique, runs well and you put that all together and it makes for a good defensive end."
Blankenship has two older brothers - Josh, who was a quarterback at Tulsa and Eastern Washington and Caleb, who is now a tight end at Tulsa - and has recorded seven sacks this season.
"I am very interested in Arkansas, but I won't make a decision until after the season is over with or really even start narrowing it down," the younger Blankenship said. "There's Arkansas, Missouri , Kansas, Texas Tech and Tulsa."
It would be quite a coup to land all three Union stars, but it wouldn't surprise or disappoint Blankenship.
"Coach Nutt is a guy I have known over the years, is a guy I trust and a guy I can trust my kids with," Coach Blankenship said. "I know they would be in great hands."
Tulsa Union eyes repeat title
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